I watched Another Woman last night. A lesser known Woody Allen film from 1988. The central character, played brilliantly by Gena Rowlands, is a cerebral, somewhat aloof writer, who comes to realise she has always been emotionally stultified. This is not like me (I didn’t dare go down and watch the marathon runners this morning, knowing I’d probably blub all over the place), but I empathised with the notion of being caught in one mindset before being painfully shown another. Right at the end, after she has reassessed her previous actions and memories and is pondering the new path she must take, she muses, ‘I wonder if a memory is something you have or something you’ve lost.’
This was particularly pertinent to me, as my boys are inching closer to adulthood. Facebook often pops up a photo from earlier times (because they ‘care about your memories.’ Hollow laugh and insertion of comment about them not caring about protecting our data). Invariably this will be a picture of a sun dappled moment in the park or on the beach, where your cherubs grinned gappily at the camera. No matter that the moments before and after the shot would no doubt have been a grizzly meltdown, banged knee or spat, leading to your losing your rag and wishing you were far away on a sun lounger with a margarita. In THAT moment, all looked well. That was the best of times. Except of course, it wasn’t. Or rather, no more, no less than the time right now is.
Memory is indeed a fickle thing. Yes, my boys are not cute blonde cherubs any more. But they can pop to the corner shop for me, carry bags and watch telly with more emotional depth and range than CBeebies. They also sleep through the night, manage their own toileting and can be exceptional company, once attention has been winkled away from electronic devices. I have lost, and have many things. It is truly difficult to remain engaged in the here and now, being mindful in the true sense. Parents know all too well that the days are long, but the years are short. One day the longing for the glass-of-wine-post-kids’-bedtime will be easy because they are about to leave home forever and you wish, more than anything, that they weren’t.
Recently, son Number One (13½ ) had an INSET day. (Or Insect as he used to say when he was small and cute. Stop it!) We decided to pay a visit to Hove Museum, which had been a veritable Mecca when he was about four. He would spend ages looking at the mini train, toy soldiers and ghost mirror in the toy room, pointing them out to other visitors. Meanwhile his baby brother and I would doze nearby. It was an excellent way to while away a cold winter weekend, spent mostly on my own because my partner was nearly always away.
This time we were the only visitors. (It’s a mystery how that place continues. They’ve removed the café and it seems increasingly in the last stages of decrepitude). Son wandered about the rooms, slightly aimlessly. I knew what he was thinking. ‘It’s so small. There’s hardly anything here. Why did I like this so much?’ For old times sake, he squeezed through the tunnel that he had once scuttled up and down with such merriment. We left after quite a short time and walked up the road to have a quick lunch. A text from his mate had come in and he wanted to get back so they could do band practice.
Was the memory something he had or something he lost…?